- Human rights in Europe
The current human rights situation in Europe on the whole is believed by many to be good. However, there are several
human rightsalleged problems ranging from the treatment of asylum seekersthrough police brutality to various infringements of the judicial rights and freedoms of businesspersons under bureaucratic regulatory sub-regimes. The British government and Opposition do not support the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which has been criticised for containing illiberal and undemocratic clauses. [“The Legal Protection Of Democracy & Freedom: The Case For A New Written Constitution & Bill Of Rights", in Lewis F. Abbott, "British Democracy: Its Restoration & Extension", ISR/Google Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-906321-31-7] [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xwN-MIMtE6sC&dq=isbn:090632131X] Individual European states are mentioned in the yearly Amnesty InternationalReports for different human rights violations. [ [http://www.amnesty.org/ Amnesty International ] ] One of the main culprits is Belarus, which is the only country in Europe to be rated "authoritarian" by the Economist. All other countries are considered to have "some form of democratic government", having either the "full democracy", "flawed democracy", or "hybrid regime" ratings. [http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/DEMOCRACY_INDEX_2007_v3.pdf] However, the building up of the European Union into a supranational political regime not directly accountable and removeable by the people has been strongly criticised for violating basic democratic rights and freedoms.
History of Human rights in Europe
The history of human rights in Europe is marked by a contradictory combination of, on the one hand, legislative and intellectual progress, and, on the other hand, violations of fundamental human rights in both the colonies of Europe, and at home.
Pre-1945 human rights developments
Statutes of Kilkenny
15th to 19th centuries:
African slave trade.
Statutes of Lithuania.
Bartolomé de Las Casasdebates Juan Ginés de Sepúlvedaon human rights ( Valladolid debate).
English Bill of Rights, England.
Claim of Right, Scotland.
The Second Treatise of Civil Government" by John Locke.
Between 1750 and 1860: The majority of the
Inclosure Acts, a number of United Kingdom Acts of Parliamentinclosed common landin the country recognized private property rights to lands which formerly had not been private property. People often grazed animals on these areas when not planted by crops, and their owners continued to do so afterward. N.B: Common usage is "enclosure," but this is not the name of the acts.
1772: British court ruling by
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfieldset a precedentthat slaveryhad no basis in law.
1781: Abolition of
serfdomin the Habsburgcountries through the emperor Leopold II( Bohemia, Moraviaand Austrian Silesia)
1783: Abolition of
serfdomin the first German state, Baden, 1810 in Prussia.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France.
Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine.
1794: France abolished slavery.
1802: France re-introduced slavery.
Napoleonic code, France and French conquests under Napoleon.
1807: British abolition of the
slave trade(but not of slavery itself).
1832: British Reform Act extended voting rights and made
trade unions legal.
1833: British abolition of slavery.
1845: Another United Kingdom General Inclosure Act allowed for the employment of inclosure Commissoners who could enclose land without submitting a request to parliament. The private property rights over formerly unenclosed lands expanded.
1848: French abolition of slavery.
On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill.
Russian abolition of serfdom.
Netherlandsabolition of slavery.
1867: British Second Reform Act extended voting rights to all urban male householders.
1884: British Representation of the People Act extended male voting rights from the town to the country.
Finlandintroduced universal suffragein national elections as the first European country. In 1917 this was extended to local elections).
1918: Another British Representation of the People Act removed most the restrictions on male voting rights, permitting nearly all men to vote and also granting the vote to women over 30 if they owned property.
Universal suffrage was introduced in the following European countries in these years:
Finland-- 1906 (note: Finland gave full parliamentary rights to women as the first country in the world in 1906. New Zealand had given women the vote before Finland but not the right to stand as candidates in elections.)
* After the
Central Powers' defeat in World War I
The Netherlands- 1919
Ireland-- 1922 (received independence)
United Kingdom-- 1928
Spain-- 1931 (but women lost the vote under Franco in 1936 and did not vote again until 1976)
* 1954–62: Torture by the French of Algerians during the
Algerian War of Independence.
* 1954-1956: Torture and killing of at least 50,000 Kenyans, perhaps far more, by the British during the
Mau Mau Rebellion.
* Government sanctioned Human Rights abuses leading to massacres in Europe:
Paris massacre of 1961
* 1978: Ruling by The European Court of Human Rights that torture by the British government of suspect IRA members constituted "cruel and inhuman treatment."
Universal suffrage granted in these countries in the following years:
San Marino-- 1960
Beginning of the European Committee of Social RightsHuman right protected by national laws (Constitutions...)
Following the collapse and break-up of the
Soviet Union, its history of severe human right abuses were laid in the open. The situation has since improved in the majority of former-Communist states of Europe, mainly those in Central Europe. These Central European states aligned themselves with the EU (most of them becoming members in 2004), and underwent a rigorous reform of human rights laws, most notably regarding freedom of speech and religion, and the protection of minorities, particularly the Roma. However, the former USSR states have made far slower progress. Despite all but Belarus becoming members of the Council of Europe, constant conflict between minority group separatists in the Caucasushas meant that successive governments in these states have passed strict laws with the aim of limiting the chance of rebellion.
Belarus itself, often described as "Europe's last dictatorship," has retained a shocking record on human rights, at least compared to its European neighbors. The press is strictly censored and controlled by the government, and the freedom to speech and protest has been removed. Although Belarus' post-independence elections match the outward forms of a democracy, election monitors have described them as unsound.
Russia has done some questionable policies itself, (such as replacing of elected governors with appointed ones, and
censorshipof the press) claiming many of these measures are needed to maintain control over its volatile Caucasusborder, where several rebel groups are based. However it is still rated to be a democracy by the Economist having a "hybrid regime" rating. [http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/DEMOCRACY_INDEX_2007_v3.pdf]
Following the collapse of communism in
Yugoslavia, the state held together by the strong rule of Josip Broz Tito, several of the nations which made it up declared independence. What followed was several years of bloody conflict as the dominant nation, Serbia, attempted at first to hold the state together, and then instead to hold onto Serb-populated areas of neighbouring nations, in order to create a " Greater Serbia." Within Serbia itself there was conflict in the region of Kosovo, where Serbs are a minority.
The now six states of the former Yugoslavia, (
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) are in various stages of human rights development. Slovenia, which suffered least in the Yugoslav wars, has since joined the EU and is widely considered to have a good human rights record and policy. Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro, which have formed stable government, have a fair human rights record, with only a few criticisms of the treatment of Serb and Albanian minorities. Croatia is also an EU applicant.
However, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia retain poor questionable rights records, the former is entirely governed under UN mandate, while the former's Kosovo region is too. Bosnia-Herzegovina is the most ethnically diverse of the current states of former Yugoslavia, with large groups of
Bosniaks, Croatsand Serbs. This is what has made peace hard to come by in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and has restricted the growth of human rights. Although several laws are in place, policing them is a difficult task. However, Bosnia and Serbia are both rated to be democracies by the Economist (with the former being rated a "hybrid regime, and the latter,a "flawed democracy"). [http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/DEMOCRACY_INDEX_2007_v3.pdf]
The states of the EU, as well as
Iceland, Norway, Switzerlandand the European microstates, have world-class human rights records. The prospect of EU membership (which also entails subscription to the European Convention on Human Rights) has encouraged several European states to improve their human rights, most notably Croatiaand Turkey, and especially on key human rights issues such as freedom of speech and the banning of the death penalty. However, certain laws passed in the wake of the fears over the War on Terrorismhave been condemned for encroaching on human rights. There has been criticism of the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schoolsand the French legislation for protecting the public against certain cultic groups. In the UK, a new indigenous British Bill of Rightshas been advocated to protect a far wider range of economic, political, judicial, communication, and personal rights and freedoms than are currently protected under basic rights laws and conventions; extend normal rights and freedoms before the law to various presently disprivileged and exploited business-economic minority classes; generally strengthen and extend the liberal social order; and establish a new independent Supreme Courtwith the power to actually strike down government laws and policies that violate basic rights and freedoms.
The end of communism, the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and easier global travel has contributed to an increase in human trafficking, with many victims being transported into forced prostitution, hard labour, agriculture and domestic service. [http://www.coe.int/T/E/Com/Files/Themes/trafficking/] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3979725.stm] The conflicts in the former Yugoslavia have also been a key factor in the increase of human trafficking in Europe. [http://web.amnesty.org/actforwomen/stories-9-eng] [http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1211214,00.html] [http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/bcr3/bcr3_200303_415_3_eng.txt#]
The The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted by the
Council of Europeon 16 May 2005. The aim of the convention is to prevent and combat the trafficking in human beings. Of the 46 members of the Council of Europe, so far 23 have signed the convention and none have ratified it yet ( 15 December 2005). [http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/ChercheSig.asp?NT=197&CM=7&DF=15/12/2005&CL=ENG] Amnesty International has called on European states to sign and ratify the convention as part of the fight against human trafficking. [http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGIOR300032005]
Council of Europe / European Union
Council of Europeis responsible for both the European Convention on Human Rightsand the European Court of Human Rights. These institutions bind the Council's members to a code of human rights which, though strict, are more lenient than those of the United Nations charter on human rights. The Council also promotes the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languagesand the European Social Charter.
The Council of Europe is separate from the
European Union, but the latter is expected to join the European Convention and potentially the Council itself. The EU also has a separate human rights document; the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.cite web|last=Junker|first=Jean-Claude|authorlink=Jean-Claude Junker|title =Council of Europe - European Union: "A sole ambition for the European continent"|date=2006|publisher= Council of Europe|url=http://assembly.coe.int/Sessions/2006/speeches/20060411_report_JCJuncker_EN.pdf|format=PDF|accessdate = 2007-07-28 ] . Since March 2007 the EU disposes over a Fundamental Rights Agency European Fundamental Rights Agency( [http://www.http://www.fra.europa.eu/fra/index.php] ) based in Vienna (Austria). See on the latter: The EU Fundamental Rights Agency: Satellite or Guiding Star? Raison d'etre, tasks and challenges of the EU's new agency [http://www.swp-berlin.org/en/produkte/swp_aktuell_detail.php?id=7060] (a policy paper by SWP Berlin).
Human rights articles by country
Capital punishment in Europe
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
European Convention on Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
List of human rights articles by country
Human rights in East Asia
Human rights in the United States
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